How Many GRE Mock Tests Should I Take?
Several students preparing for the GRE ask me about the number of full-length mock tests that they should take to ensure a good score. Many erroneously believe that taking 6 or more GRE practice tests would translate into a high score. Although mock exams are essential to scoring high on the GRE, it is even more important to carefully plan when and how often to take them.
There is no set rule of thumb regarding the number of mocks that one should take before the GRE exam. In fact it depends on your individual preparation and the amount of time that you would need to prepare before finally taking the exam. Mock tests should be used as a yardstick to measure where you stand and what the weaknesses and strengths are so that your GRE preparation can be tweaked accordingly.
Take One Test Early On
Once you are well acquainted with the test structure and type of topics tested on the GRE you should immediately attempt a mock test in order to see where you stand and how you should plan your study schedule. Most people stall taking mock tests as they feel they need to prepare more and are afraid to take them. However, remember that it’s fine to get a lower score in your initial mocks. The initial tests will be indicative of which areas you need to work on and which areas can ignored – in short prep optimization.
Once you take the first test you can then outline how much time you will be spending on the topics you find challenging. It will also guide your learning and the kind of strategies you need to develop to be able to attempt the questions in time.
Take a Test Every Few Weeks
After you put your GRE prep into full throttle, you should set an interval to take mock exams after. This interval could be 1-2 weeks depending on your study pace. After you take a mock you should spend plenty of time dissecting the whole exam to find your mistakes, identifying trends (in the type of questions you get wrong) and finding the topics you struggle with in the test.
The next 1-2 weeks should be spent working on these mistakes and studying the concepts you were not clear about. Once you feel confident about not repeating the same mistakes you should take the next mock test. While taking the mocks helps you to build your stamina in taking the test and to learn to manage your time, the time period in between the mocks is most crucial as this is when you improve your performance by tackling your weak spots.
Take 2-3 Tests Every Week
You have covered all the topics and you think you are performing fairly well on the mocks, what’s next? You should start attempting mock tests more frequently, 2-3 tests per week. Keep analyzing your performance on these mocks. Once you start getting your target score and achieve the performance you hope to have in the actual exam you can schedule your GRE test. It is best to take a full-length test after every 2 days – taking consecutive exams can be strenuous and taxing.
Make sure you take all of your mock exams under the same conditions and mental state to ensure apples to apples comparison. I strongly urge students to take all mock exams at the same time when you actually plan to take the test; for example if your actual test is at 10 am, then you should take all of your mock exams at 10 am. Never take mocks in the evening, or at night, or after office/university. Never take more than 1 mock exam in a day.
If you have already scheduled your test but do not think you will get the score you wish to get then it will be best to reschedule the test for a later date. It costs $50 and spending this money will be better rather than having to give the exam multiple times.
If you adopt this strategy you can expect to take 10-15 mocks while preparing over a three month time period and fewer if you take comparatively less time to prepare. You can find mock tests from the following sources:
2 Power Prep ETS GRE Exams
You can get 2 computer adaptive tests from ETS itself by downloading the Power Prep software for free from the ETS website. The software gives you a true representation of how the test will look like on the actual exam in terms of the on screen calculator and how questions and answer choices appear. Moreover, the tests provide you a very realistic estimate of your GRE score for the verbal section and a bit inflated for the quant section.
6 Manhattan Full-length Tests
You can find one free full length test on the Manhattan website after making an account. 6 practice tests can be purchased (which includes the one free test). These tests are also adaptive and are a good practice for the exam even though the verbal section on these tests could be improved to match the kind of questions on the actual exam.
4 Princeton Review GRE Practice Test
The Princeton Review tests offers good verbal content and a few very tricky quantitative questions. Princeton’s 3-4 full practice tests will benefit you as you can get additional practice.
4 Kaplan GRE Test
The quant questions on the 4 Kaplan practice tests are really good and Kaplan throws a lot of good quality probability questions. The verbal section is also at par with the actual GRE exam.
Practice tests from ETS, Manhattan, Kaplan and Princeton are your best bet for getting good mock tests and should be heavily relied on to predicts your score.